Happy New Year to you all. Unlike 2018 where my most memorable reads were the ones that annoyed me, 2019 was a wonderful reading year full of excellent books – 44 which I rated with five stars! 2019 gave me a number of new autobuy authors, new insights and several books that are now on my all-time favourite books list as well as being the first year to crack 100 books since 2012. A stellar year indeed! But first to my statistics:
Fiction: 40 including Romance fiction: 33
Books DNFd but counted: 3 (this means I threw in the towel after tolerating 100 pages of shite)
Picture Books: 8
Graphic Novels: 17
Non-fiction: 71 including Memoir/Narrative: 23; Design: 17; Library/Reading Theory: 14
These are not a total with a fair amount of overlap, for instance 10 of my fiction books were audiobooks. I have listed below my favourites, I will link back to those of which I have discussed in previous posts.
My fave romance fiction reads this year:
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary – I feel as though I have handed this book to everyone I have encountered. Written in a she said/he said fashion with the female/male protagonists sharing a bed in an accidental roommate trope in a Ladyhawke fashion where he’s only in the house during the day and she is in it at night and they don’t even meet until nearly halfway through the book. Tiffy has an ex-boyfriend she is trying to get over, and Leon has his own personal needs for renting out his bed while he works night shifts. Tiffy and Leon communicate primarily with post it notes, and I tell you, I was totally and utterly charmed. The story does get intense and could be potentially upsetting if you relate to Tiffy’s situation. Both Tiffy and Leon and fundamentally good and decent people and Leon is perhaps one of my fave male hero characters ever. Maybe even more fave than Crusie’s Phinneas Tucker. I love this book. Go out. Buy it. Don’t borrow it and never lend it out to anyone. An outstanding keeper.
In At The Deep End by Penelope Janu. A disclosure here – I accidently had a coffee meet-up with Janu about a year ago. Another author had invited me out for a coffee and I felt a bit embarrassed that I had never heard of Penelope Janu (which is truly ridiculous as I have since discovered that she is an alumnus of my school and many of my PhD cohort studied with her and we were in and out of the same research rooms for years). Anyway, the next day I borrowed this book from the library and was absolutely blown away by this excellent romance. Harriet Scott is the daughter of adventurers and Per Amundsen is the Norwegian naval commander who saves her from perishing in a storm in the Southern Ocean. Per is a total grump and closed off person, as is Harriet though she can be a little bit more forthcoming than Per. Harriet needs to overcome her fear of water so that she can learn to swim, and Per is the one teaching her. As each lesson unfolds you learn more about Harriet and Per, their personal griefs and their life values. Their swimming lessons take place in the ocean pool at Avalon Beach in Sydney and the setting is quite important in the way it moves the romance forward. The emotions run deep in this story. It is intense and it makes for one of the best Sydney set romances I have ever read. Even without my own close knowledge of the setting, this is an excellent romance with the added bonus of some of the best vomit writing too. The only negative is that Willaful tells me that even though this is published by Harlequin Australia, she has been unable to source a copy in the US. I hope that someone can overcome this problem. Since I read In At the Deep End, I have also read 2 other books by Janu – On the Same Page and On the Right Track. Both are good romances.
Mira Lyn Kelly. You know when you find an author you really enjoy so you just read anything you can by them? Well, this is what happened to me upon finding Kelly’s The Wedding Date series and I am delighted when I look back at my rating that 3 out of 4 got five stars and the other one has 4 stars. The four books circle around a group of friends as they all hook up and marry people while their lives crisscross at weddings, parties and the pub that one of the MCs owns. I love Kelly’s style of wring and her authorial voice. One thing I noticed, and maybe I am wrong here, but there seemed to be a hat-tip to the hey days of 1980s soap opera with a bit of a Bo and Hope Days’ of Our Lives motorcycles at weddings theme going on. I really hope I am right because it added to the fun of the reading experience. Once I finished the series, I found Kelly’s first book published with Harlequin Mills & Boon under the KISS imprint and it was so shockingly bad, like “drugging a woman and marrying her in Vegas makes you a dick of a hero” BAD. I am glad I read this series first because I would never have given Mira Lyn Kelly a go if I had come across that book first. This really highlighted to me my long held belief that romance authors debut books rarely are their best work and go on to improve with each book. Skip the first book, and go straight to this series.
Teri Wilson. Another romance author recommended to me by superlibrarian SuperWendy and found absolutely delightful and fun is Teri Wilson having read her Accidental Beauty Queen and the wonderful The Bachelor’s Baby Surprise (see Reading Note 8). I will certainly look out for more of her books.
Lucy Knisley. I am deeply enamoured by Knisley’s memoir graphic novels and this year I read two that delighted me – Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride and Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos. The first is Knisley’s telling of her upcoming wedding where she joins her personal experiences with a history of weddings, marriages, courtships and love. My previous reading of Knisley had me thinking how free and unencumbered by she seemed to be in her life in comparison to my own strictures where I felt constrained by the expectations of what I thought were Greek community expectations (as well as complying with my church’s regulations). However, Knisley’s mother seemed to put on her the same stresses and pressures that my mum put on me, and I found myself giggling when Knisley bemoans needing to invite some local carpenter she did not know to appease her mum which was exactly like my own experience being forced to drop 4 of my friends from my wedding to invite my mum’s cabinet maker. It made me laugh as what in my mind had been ascribed as a frustration of being Greek, was actually just the frustration of being a deeply engaged community member. Insight to my life only 25 years too late! I also loved her book Kid Gloves chronicling her pregnancy, the history of giving birth and the problems that can arise. Where her bride book had me laughing and feeling all schmooshy and happy for her, her birth book found me weeping at the inequities of health care for women and the catastrophic impacts that we deal with when doctors miss symptoms.
I love Knisley’s storytelling of her life and I am now following her Instagram. I get glimpses of her world like a syndicated memoir webcomic. It is a small weekly joy that I relish (heh!).
I read 23 memoirs in the past year (including 7 in Graphic Novel form). I have previously sung the praises of David Sedaris’s Calypso (see Reading Note 2) and Richard Fidler’s Ghost Empire (see Reading Note 10). Both books rate in my favourite books of this year, though Fidler’s Ghost Empire is a new entrant to my all time favourite books.
The Bus on Thursday by Shirley Barrett was an absolute rollercoaster of bat-shit-crazy horror-mystery-chicklit novel. It was a hot bed of messed up ideas that appealed to my need for absurdist fiction. There was cancer suffering, friendship dissing, a tree change, a vacuum cleaner salesman, weird young children, exorcisms, women that go missing without a reason, mud, and of course there is the bus on Thursdays. The weirdness of this novel makes you question your sanity when you get to the end and the highlight is the author’s unique storytelling.
Reading in 2020
I don’t really plan on reading much for the first half of this year. I do have some interior design books on loan from the library but for the most part, everything is on hold. If I get the chance to delve into fiction then it will be a bonus. My Christmas gift to myself was Ada Limón’s book of poetry The Carrying which I am marking as I read through it. Recommended to me by Keira Soleore, I think it will be my constant companion as I move forward in the next few months. My thesis is due in May so I will pare back my social media even more than I have been doing. I hope to still write short notes, but I will see how the coming months move me forward. In the meantime, my friends, I hope 2020 brings you happiness, joy and many reading opportunities.